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Is it “now or never” for museum workers to initiate action on problematic museum working conditions that were “trending” a short time ago?

Be Counted

Following my previous encouragements posted on various blog platforms for museum workers to begin taking action on poor quality of working lives issues in our field, is it now time for concerned museum workers to start initiating the solutions? May I suggest that the upcoming 2018 American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo, 6-9 May in Phoenix, AZ, is an opportune time for members to instigate resolution of problematic working conditions.

The “trending” issues relating to quality of working lives issues include addressing poor pay—for all workers & especially so for women in our field—as well as unsustainable levels of overwork expected from museum workers. See the draft resolution proposal included in this blog’s 18 January 2018 post “Action? on Museum Workers Leaving the Field” (Thistle 2018).

These poor working conditions dilemmas are not going away—indeed they continue to deteriorate. Recent announcements of “re-structuring” [read as “doing more with less”] in the field (Knott 2018) duplicate difficulties identified by Sullivan (2015) for museum workers. Of course, museum workers are not alone in facing decent work deficits as identified in Dr. David Posen’s (1913) book Is Work Killing You? A Doctor’s Prescription for Treating Workplace Stress.

If readers’ own experiences at work have not yet convinced you about the need for museum workers to take action sooner than later on various working condition issues, please consult the following sources:

  • Poor pay generally & for women in particular: Baldwin (2018), American Alliance of Museums (2017), Nonprofit Quarterly (2014)
  • Workers leaving the museum field: Milldrum (2017), Erdman et al. (2017), Ocello et al. (2017)
  • Wide ranging dissatisfaction among emerging professionals: Greenberg & Pelaez (2015)
  • Overwork: Posen (2013), Sullivan (2015), Thistle (2017), Knott (2018).

In light of the above, I urge museum workers who are concerned about these issues & who plan to attend the AAM Annual General Meeting in Phoenix this year introduce one or more resolutions requesting plans of action from AAM on moving toward gender pay equity and/or investigation of current museum workers & those who have recently left the field about the quality of working lives in museums. One potential draft resolution is proposed in Action? on Museum Workers Leaving the Field (Thistle 2018) .

Sadly,  neither the AAM web site nor the pages on the MuseumExpo conference provide any details on the proper ways & means for members to get resolutions on the floor of the AGM. I have asked the conference organisers for this information & will post it here as soon as it is received.

Is it “now or never” yet?

In closing, your blogger, Paul C. Thistle, would appreciate getting reports on any resolutions put up for debate at the AAM AGM in Phoenix along with the results of votes. Please post any actions—whether successful or not—in the comments on this blog post.

Thanks for thinking about this & for taking a hand in generating necessary solutions.

References Cited:

American Alliance of Museums. 2017. “News Release: American Alliance of Museums Partners with 11 Regional and State Museum Associations to Produce 2017 Salary Survey: Comprehensive Study Analyzes 52 Museum Positions on National, Local Levels” 20 June. Washington: American Alliance of Museums [“Two-thirds of all full-time paid museum professionals in the sample are women, and women outnumber men in 44 of the 52 full-time positions. However, they typically receive less pay than their male peers” (American Alliance of Museums 2017.]

Baldwin, Joan. 2018. “What’s Missing From “7 Factors That Drive Museum Wages Down”?” Leadership Matters post on March 4, 2018 https://leadershipmatters1213.wordpress.com/2018/03/04/whats-missing-from-7-factors-that-drive-museum-wages-down/?wref=tp (accessed 19 March 2018). Also see A Call for Gender Equity in the Museum Workplace: https://gemmgenderequity.wordpress.com/call-to-action/ & https://www.genderequitymuseums.com/ (accessed 26 March 2018).

Erdman, Sarah et al. 2017. “Leaving the Museum Field.” Alliance Labs blog [American Alliance of Museums] posted 22 September https://www.aam-us.org/2017/09/22/leaving-the-museum-field/ (accessed 6 October 2020).

Greenberg, Alyssa & Pelaez, Nina. 2015. “Unsafe Ideas: Building Museum Worker Solidarity for Social Justice.” Center for the Future of Museums Blog posted 2 June at http://futureofmuseums.blogspot.ca/2015/06/unsafe-ideas-building-museum-worker.html.

Knott, Jonathan. 2018. “ULC Culture’s restructure plans come under fire.” Museums Association (UK) Museums Journal posted 14 March 2018 https://www.museumsassociation.org/museums-journal/news/14032018-ucl-culture-restructure-plans-under-fire?dm_i=2VBX,O6CH,27LJBV,2HBKM,1 (accessed 19 March 2018).

Milldrum, Claire. 2017. “Why I Left The Museum Field: A Guest Post By Claire Milldrum.” ExhibiTricks: A Museum/Exhibit/Design Blog posted 11 September http://blog.orselli.net/2017/09/why-i-left-museum-field-guest-post-by.html .

Nonprofit Quarterly. 2014. [NO LONGER ACCESSIBLE ON-LINE: Pay deficits in the case of women in museum work for example are well-documented. Nonprofit Quarterly March 2014 reporting on National Center for Arts Research found that women leading art museums “earn 79 [to 71 for small museums] cents on the dollar paid to male peers,” The GuideStar 2013 Nonprofit Compensation Report finds similar differential between pay for men compared to women across all categories. 2012 American Association of Museums study reports women make 78%.]

Ocello, Claudia et al. 2017. “Why are Great Museum Workers Leaving the Field? Survey by Claudia Ocello, Dawn Salerno, Sarah Erdman, & Marieke Van Damme.” https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1_aHdxmG0Jdb4deqsjyhH9eoDUIPXz_EdkU-7gWuXDwE/edit?usp=sharing .

Posen, David. 2013. Is Work Killing You? A Doctor’s Prescription for Treating Workplace Stress. Toronto: House of Anansi Press Inc.

Sullivan, Nicola. 2015. “Museum Professionals Have to Meet Higher Demands Due to Cuts.” Museums Journal. Museums Association, UK http://www.museumsassociation.org/museums-journal/news/06052015-staff-stress (accessed 19 March 2018).

Thistle, Paul C. 2018. “Action? on Museum Workers Leaving the Field.” Solving Task Saturation for Museum Workers blog post 18 January 2018 https://solvetasksaturation.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/action-on-museum-workers-leaving-the-field/ (accessed 26 March 2018).

Thistle, Paul C. 2017. “Museum Workers Leaving the Field: Survey Results & Solutions.” Solving Task Saturation for Museum Workers post 14 November 2017 https://solvetasksaturation.wordpress.com/2017/11/14/museum-workers-leaving-the-field-survey-results-solutions/ (accessed 19 March 2017) [as well as many other posts on the Solving Task Saturation blog].